When he's playing football, D.J. Moore looks a lot like Stefon Diggs. About 70 percent of the similarity is that Moore picked up the No. 1 jersey Diggs left behind for the NFL Draft last spring, but at least 30 percent of it is production. In his first three games as a Maryland receiver, Moore has shown he can do two Diggsy things quite well: catch footballs and run away from people. And of Maryland's newest contributors at receivers, Moore hasn't been the only one.
Moore has six catches on 10 targets from Maryland quarterbacks this year. That's only a 60 percent catch rate (which isn't excellent), but Moore merits looking deeper. Because if game officials hadn't missed a clear sideline call against him in Maryland's game against Bowling Green on Sept. 12, he'd have a 70 percent catch rate, which is great. Such are small sample sizes in sports. Even with that 20-yard catch not counting for the record, the true freshman Moore stands solidly among Maryland pass-catchers through the first three games of his career.
|Kenneth Goins Jr.||3||1||1||33.3%||0.3||1|
If you account for referee incompetence, Moore's yards-per-target is actually about 13.2 – basically equal to Levern Jacobs at the top of Maryland's leaderboard, and about 4 yards better per target than Diggs in his final Maryland season. Here's the same chart for all of Maryland's pass-catchers last year:
|Kenneth Goins Jr.||12||7||54||58.3%||4.5||7.7|
(The tabulations on both tables courtesy of Bill Connelly.)
That Maryland hasn't played a conference schedule yet this year makes this comparison a bit unscientific, but the information we have so far comes up smelling pretty good for Maryland receivers coach Keenan McCardell. Levern Jacobs is steadier all around than Deon Long, Jacquille Veii or Marcus Leak ever were for Maryland, and Moore is better than any of them. Levern's brother Taivon established himself last week as a legitimate deep threat. Amba Etta-Tawo's catch rate has gone from 40 percent to better than 70 percent, and the only receivers Maryland probably wishes it still had are Diggs and Juwann Winfree. Generally, Maryland receivers are catching the ball slightly more often – and for slightly more yardage – than last year.
It's also worth noting a major dynamic change in Maryland's offense this year from last: the presence of a legitimate pass-catching tight end. Avery Edwards, a former four-star North Carolina commit who spent last year at the IMG Academy and is now a Maryland freshman, has been something of a revelation so far. Last weekend against South Florida, he singlehandedly doubled Maryland's tight end touchdown total from last year's one:
Man, Avery Edwards' first TD catch from Caleb Rowe was so impressive. https://t.co/L17kULvf2m— Daniel Gallen (@danieljtgallen) September 20, 2015
Edwards has gotten three targets per game, and that's likely to go up now that he's demonstrated in game repetitions the kind of receiver he can be. Philosophically, Maryland doesn't always distinguish between tight ends and wide receivers – just playing "five playmakers," Edwards said – but he gives the offense a dimension it didn't have last year. The forthcoming return of injured tight end Andrew Isaacs should only help in this regard.
Maryland lost 75 percent of its receiving production after last season. If the season's first month suggested anything, it was that the Terps have a chance to get all of that back, and then a little bit more.